Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.

 

We Are the Reason for the Season   

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(12/26) There are a lot of words on our Christmas cards that would be appropriate to speak about tonight. Words like Hope, Love, Peace, Joy, Faith, and Merry Christmas. But one that we donít often use at Christmas is Grace.

The text I have chosen for us tonight is 2 Cor. 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." Now let me just say that the context of this verse is not about Christmas per se, it is about the Church in Greece pooling resources to help those Jewish Christians that have suffered in Jerusalem. It is part of a lesson on grace giving to those who are incapable of helping themselves. But it is a wonderful reminder of what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Eve is always a time of wonder and amazement for me. The Christmas story is a wonderful story. We bought two toy nativity sets for our grandchildren to play with and last Sunday we decided to use them to tell them the story of the birth of Jesus who is called the Christ. I hope that you will feel the wonder of His grace this night.

The story of Christmas goes back in time long before that decree from Caesar Augustus. It goes back beyond the time of Micah and Isaiah who told of His mother being a virgin and Bethlehem being the place where the Messiah would be born. It goes back beyond knowing that he would come from the lineage of David. It goes back beyond our first parents eating the forbidden fruit and bringing a curse on us all. The story of Christmas was no afterthought; No, uh, oh what do we do now. 1 Peter 1:20 tells us, "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." Before one thing was created, our Father knew we would need to be rescued and already had a plan in place to save you and me.

Christmas is all about a gift. It is a grace gift. Do you remember what Grace is? Grace is getting something good that you donít deserve, and didnít earn, and canít afford. We deserved nothing from God and we had earned nothing from God except the just wages of our selfishness, self-centeredness, and sinfulness. But the love of God wanted to rescue us, forgive us, and make us part of his family. But how? Only one way. It had to be grace

The plan was to provide a substitute for us, a sacrifice who would become our substitute and would pay our penalty for our sins. That is grace. Hebrews 10 reminds us that somehow there was a plan devised by our Father in Heaven, and a willingness of Jesus to carry out that plan. That plan was to become poor, human, despised, rejected, and killed so that people could live. That is grace. That is love (Romans 5:6-8). And that is humility as we saw a few weeks in Phil. 2:5. Let me come back to that in a few minutes.

You know the Christmas story, right? You know about Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, angels, wise men, a manger, and the star. Does it amaze you? It amazes me. But think of what the story does not include. There is no headís up given to anyone except Mary and Joseph, and perhaps, Zach and Liz. You know what a, headís up is, right? Itís an advance notice or warning. Itís like when a teacher says there will be a test tomorrow or next week. Wouldnít it have been easier if Gabriel would have sat down with the Mary and Joseph and their parents and filled them in on what was going to happen? But he did not. Would they be willing to walk by faith, even if it meant being completely alone? Would they trust God no matter what? Would you?

This is the Eternal Son of God we are talking about. God the Father could have given Mary and Joseph a headís up about the whole Bethlehem thing. "Guys, there is going to be a census and a tax and you will have to go to Bethlehem like the prophecy says. It is going to be crowded there so you should go and get a head start, before you are too far along, then you can find good lodging before the crowd gets there. But He didnít. They had to walk by faith day by day, trusting God for every day, with no special interference from God. Sounds like everyday life, doesnít it?

It is at least 75 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and there are no buses, no taxiís, no trains or trams, and no shuttle flights. The Father could have booked them a one way on Angel Airlines like Philip in Acts 8, but He did not. Now, in most of our stories there is a donkey that Mary rides on while Joseph walks. There may have been one. Or, there may have been a cart that she rode on, but there is no donkey or cart are mentioned in the story. There is every possibility that she had to walk 75 miles or more to Bethlehem, with her due date just a few days away.

The Lord could have tapped some Godly person on the shoulder in Bethlehem and said, "Be on the lookout for a pregnant lady and her husband and save them a room at your house or motel." He could have, but He did not. Other than warning Joseph of impending danger, the Father did not interfere in the life of the chosen parents of His Son. They received no special privileges, nor did His Son. No bubble, no silver spoon, no magic ring or cape. Complete humanity and complete poverty. No pampers or Luvs, just strips of cloth and a small hay rack, in a cave or stable.

God could have chosen a couple with a little more financial security but he didnít. Jesus was born and raised in abject poverty. Although he was rich refers to Jesusí preexistence as the Son of God. He enjoyed the presence of the Father and shared in His glory. Worship of angels, streets of gold, and glory that no mortal could see and live. Yet the He laid aside what He could rightfully claim as His own and for our sakes became exactly as one of us, from a humble birth to a cruel death.

He emptied Himself, and humbled Himself to be born a man, made a servant of men and became obedient unto death on a cross. The One who was rich from the heavens descends to earth, Calvary and the grave. None was richer than He."

Jesus was born in a borrowed cave or stable, laid a borrowed cradle, preached from a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate His Last Supper in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave.

I donít know what Heaven smells like but I know what sheep, goats, and donkeys smell like. They donít use toilets that flush, they go where they are. Jesus left the smells of heaven to breath in the air and smell of animals.

The wonder of Christmas is that He did this for your sakes. Many people wear pins or have signs or send cards that say, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." But the truth is more than that, "We are the Reason for the Season." He came for our sakes. In 1980, David Meece wrote that song that George sang, We are the Reason. It was for our sakes that we have Christmas and Easter.

We were, as most still are, in a hopeless situation. Lost and destined to a dark eternity because of our sins. Only a sinless substitute could rescue us and give us hope. Jesus agreed to be that substitute (Heb. 10; Psalm 40). Paul says that we canít come close to knowing that kind of love. (Romans 5:6-8) "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Thatís grace! Thatís God gift to us.

We were as powerless over our sin nature as an addict is to heroin, cocaine, or alcohol. The world, our own flesh, and Satan keeps us enslaved to our sin nature as secure as chains or handcuffs. His grace goes beyond the sacrifice He made for us, He comes to reside with all who will receive Him and with His Word, He gives us the ability to be free from sinís power and to live Holy for Him. He said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earthÖ.and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20)

We live much of our lives in fear of death, not sure of what lays beyond deathís door. Or, we do know what waits and we know that we are not ready to face it. Only the author of life can remove that fear by taking its sting for us. The author of Hebrews in Chapter 2 reminds us that He tasted death completely for us. The one who receives Jesus as Savior and Lord receives the grace to know that He is forever connected to God and though we may fear how we will die, we know that when we are absent from our bodies we will be present with God. That is awesome security. That is grace. Once the destiny of our deaths is settled, we are free to live life with hope and faith.

Paul says this was all grace. This is the unearned, undeserved, gift and favor of God who had every right to let us experience the full consequences of a life lived without Him. We did not seek God. We did not ask God for a way out. The God we sinned against provided it for us and gives it to us for free. And it came to us by way of a poor couple and a manger.

And the poverty! The poverty of humanity was as the author of Hebrews says, (Ch. 2), "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. That word merciful pertains to someone who has been in our skin, has been where we are now and knows the pain; some who has walked a mile in your shoes, who understands and wants to help you through your problems. No one can ever look up to heaven and say, "You donít understand. You donít know how I feel. you donít know what I am going through." His poverty was so you would know that He knows exactly what you are going through and knows how to get you through.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."

Why would He do such a wondrous thing? Because He loves us. He did it for us, for our sakes, that we "might become rich!" That we may become rich refers to salvation, that is the inheritance of Godís kingdom, eternal life, and glorification.

We were all poor, spiritually, eternally, totally bankrupt before we met Jesus Christ. But now that we have trusted Him we share in His riches! Riches of mental and physical health, common sense, and abundant life. Riches like daily spiritual victory, joy, love, peace and holiness. We are now the children of God, "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17).

We are the adopted sons and daughters of Almighty God. We have a place in the Fatherís house. We are heirs of all that the Father has and we will share it with Jesus forever. We will share in His glory forever.

One last thing about Grace. It is for people who donít deserve it. Thatís all of us. Listen, there is nothing you have done that is greater than Godís grace. For you, Jesus lived and died. You are the reason for the season. Grace is gift. God wants you to have it. You just have to receive it by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)

Letís thank God for His Grace and Pray.

We are the Reason- David Meece

As little children we would dream of Christmas morn

Of all the gifts and toys we knew we'd find

But we never realized a baby born one blessed night

Gave us the greatest gift of our lives

*We were the reason that He gave His life

We were the reason that He suffered and died

To a world that was lost He gave all He could give

To show us the reason to live

As the years went by we learned more about gifts

The giving of ourselves and what that means

On a dark and cloudy day a man hung crying in the rain

All because of love

All because of love

*Chorus

I finally found the reason for living

It's in giving every part of my heart to Him (every part to Him)

And all that I do every word that I say (you know I'll be saying)

I'll be giving my all just for Him, for Him (every thing for Him)

We are the reason that He gave His life

We are the reason that He suffered and died

To a world that was lost He gave all He could give (all that he could give all)

To show us the reason to live

He is the reason to live

(Don't you know do you know the reason

That he came, oh he came to save us

When he gave his life for us) he suffered and died

To a world that was lost He gave everything (everything that He had He gave)

To show us the reason to live

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman